The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust

By Ernestine Schlant | Go to book overview

two

Documentary Literature

Alexander Kluge and Günter Grass

To communicate something in [language] is simple; but not to communicate something, to let the communication disappear in an excess of language, that is a work performance of extraordinary quality. 1

Wolfgang Koeppen's criticism of the Adenauer restoration and his blatant attacks on the holdovers from the Nazi past did not gain him a large readership, but his concerns were shared by thoughtful observers. The "economic miracle" focused all energy on rebuilding the economy and the cities, literally and figuratively covering over the ravages and destructions caused by the Nazi regime. There was much pride in the speed and thoroughness of the recovery, in the work ethic, and the country's economic success, but no questions were asked about Germany's role in the war that now led to this frantic activity. Economic reconstruction eliminated the physical ruination of World War II, but it was not as successful in eradicating the memories of what had brought about this ruination. These memories had to be repressed, denied, and covered up in a maelstrom of subterfuges and mauvaise foi. The newly acquired consumer comforts may have been an end in themselves, but they also distracted attention away from any inquiry into the historical causes of the devastation (the Hitler regime) or the less obvious motives (the desire to forget that past). In all this ratiocinating, complex time manipulations were necessary: the past was the propelling force in the present,

-51-

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The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One - The First Postwar Decade 21
  • Two - Documentary Literature 51
  • Three - Autobiographical Novels 80
  • Four - Autobiographical Novels 99
  • Five - The War on the Eastern Front 123
  • Six - Ruptures and Displacements 149
  • Seven - Restitution of Personal Identity? 166
  • Eight - Speeches and Controversies 188
  • Nine - Post-Unification 209
  • Conclusion 235
  • Notes 245
  • Selected Bibliography 262
  • Index 273
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